HAZLET – Middletown South was already without injured do-it-all star Jake Czwakiel, and then starting running back Donovan Summey went down in the second quarter against Raritan on Thursday night.

But the Eagles still had Colin Gallagher.

The reigning Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the Year took over the game on both ends, rolling up a career-high 241 yards rushing and three touchdowns and spearheading a defensive effort that limited the Rockets to 16 total yards in a 19-0 nondivisional victory at Joseph DeVirgilio Field.

“Stuff doesn’t happen your way sometimes, and you’ve just got to be able to battle,” Gallagher said. “Without Donovan, without Jake, that's our two main rushing guys. I'm the third guy, but I do what I have to do.”

Gallagher’s exhilarating performance was only part of the story for the Eagles (1-1), who endured a frightening and emotional moment near the end of the first half.

Senior Kian Casey was injured in a collision on a kickoff with 1:20 left in the second quarter and was put on a stretcher and taken in an ambulance to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for further evaluation. He gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was being loaded into the ambulance. Casey had feeling in all his extremities when he was on the field, Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci said following the game.

Middletown South senior Colin Gallagher took the Raritan defense for a ride in rushing for a career-high 241 yards and 3 TDs. (Photo by Joe Szutyanyi)
Middletown South senior Colin Gallagher took the Raritan defense for a ride in rushing for a career-high 241 yards and 3 TDs. (Photo by Joe Szutyanyi)

"It's just scary,” Gallagher said. “A lot of tears in everyone's eyes. But you can't play scared because then you're just going to get injured. You've still got to go all gas, and you've got to play for him.”

“That’s the first time I've experienced that in all my years of coaching,” Antonucci said. “Your emotions are way, way different.”

The half was called with 1:20 remaining. The players then returned from the locker room after the break and finished that final 1:20 before a three-minute stoppage of play. Then the third quarter kicked off.

The idea came from Raritan head coach Anthony Petruzzi, who wanted to allow the Eagles to deal with the emotional impact of seeing Casey taken away in an ambulance without having to get right back to playing the game. The Eagles players jogged behind the ambulance as it was leaving the field before they headed to the locker rom.

“Petruzzi is a class act to end the half and just let us regroup a little bit,” Antonucci said.

Middletown South, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16, entered the game without Czwakiel, their All-Shore senior standout quarterback/defensive back/kicker/punter. He suffered a high ankle sprain on a long run in the first quarter of a 24-6 season-opening loss to Rumson-Fair Haven that sidelined him from Thursday night’s game.

The Eagles came out with Summey, usually their tailback, lined up in the shotgun at quarterback. He and Gallagher ran some zone read and straight power runs, and they went right down the field and scored on a 41-yard burst by Gallagher. With Czwakiel out, Middletown South decided to go for the two-point conversion on two of its touchdowns and got denied on both of them.

The injury bug then bit Summey, who suffered an ankle injury on a tackle along the Raritan sideline with 5:12 left in the second quarter. He did not return.

Junior Jackson Harris entered the game as the quarterback and went 4-for-4 for 34 yards passing on a 55-yard drive that ended with Gallagher lining up in the wildcat formation and running it in from nine yards out for a 12-0 lead.

The Eagles tacked on one final score when Gallagher broke off a 73-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter and scored from four yards out three plays later. With the game in hand, he didn’t play on offense in the fourth quarter to get a well-deserved breather.

Gallagher also unofficially had 14 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 other hits for a loss as part of a dominant defensive effort by the Eagles. Raritan (0-1) only had two first downs in the game and was held to minus-6 yards rushing.

“Last week wasn't us,” Gallagher said about the Rumson loss. “We shut down after Jake went down. If we play that game again, we all think we'd win. It's just tough, and we're all playing with a little anger, a little fire in our behinds.

“We wanted to make a statement. We think we're one of the best defenses in the Shore, and we're going to prove it week in and week out with our schedule.”

Middletown South now heads into an American Division game against Wall next week with two of its top starters questionable with ankle injuries. But they still have Gallagher.

“He is the throwback football kid that you love,” Antonucci said. “The Larry Csonkas, the Franco Harrises, the Earl Campbells. He'll spend everything he's got to help us win. We do have that.”

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